Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton Answer Your Questions About Writing and Storytelling
From the Ursa Short Fiction Podcast with Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton
On this special bonus episode, co-hosts Deesha Philyaw and Dawnie Walton answer your burning questions about writing, the craft of storytelling, and finding that creative spark.
Deesha Philyaw on drawing on memory to inform your writing:
Toni Morrison observed the role that memory plays in fiction writing in the essay she wrote called the “The Site of Memory.” And in that essay, she says, “The act of imagination is bound up with memory. They straightened out the Mississippi River in places to make room for houses and livable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. ‘Floods’ is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding, it is remembering, remembering where it used to be.
“All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was. Writers are like that, remembering where we were, what valley we ran through, what the banks were like, the light that was there and the route back to our original place. It is emotional memory, what the nerves and the skin remember as well as how it appeared. And a rush of imagination is our ‘flooding.’” I was like, “Yes, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Dawnie Walton on approaching fiction writing in a similar way that you’d approach nonfiction:
The curiosity is what brings you to the page. And the deeper obsession is the thing that keeps you coming back. I think we spend a lot of time saying fiction is this and nonfiction is that. But a lot of times I leaned into the same journalistic instincts I had from my prior career to plug away at fiction.
My work as a journalist and nonfiction writer taught me, it’s so important to understand the story you’re telling, in terms of what’s important and what it’s really about. It taught me how to think about hierarchy of details and how to disseminate those details. It’s all about storytelling. It’s not just specifically fiction, but how you craft a story as you naturally would.